Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wild Goose Festival Reflections

What's the Wild Goose Festival?  

The website describes it this way, "The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Last month, the first Wild Goose festival was held near Chapel Hill, NC. This festival is a North American arts, music, justice and spirituality festival. Inspired by Greenbelt in the UK, the festival hoped to provide a space to deepen growth for those who want to connect faith and justice, and provide inspiration and energy for fresh expressions of Christianity in today’s world."

If you are a Wild Goose Festival (WGF) follower, you know by now that everyone who attended has blogged or tweeted or facebooked their reflections already - and you can view many of them through the "Syncro-Blog"  - "...51 discreet bloggers who wrote a total of 59 posts on the subject of the Wild Goose. And not all of them are about the festival, though many are." 

To the abundant myriad expressions of "what was it really like?" I add my own bit of what it was like to show up in that moment.  I'll try to be concise.

1. Bookshelf Alive!

Many of the authors whose books I had read in the last year participated.  (They all waived their speaking fees, too!)  I felt like I had taken books off the shelf and with some Harry-Potter-like command (bookious alivious!) the speakers appeared before me.  

Vincent Harding, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shane Claiborne, Peterson Toscano, Paul Fromberg, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Joyce Harding, John Dear, Jim Forbes, Diana Butler-Bass, Doug Pagitt, Peter Rollins, Kester Brewin, Richard Rohr, Tony Jones, ...

And like most good authors, they introduced me to several new-to-me authors and musicians whose work I will now engage: Mark Scantrette, Cheri Holdridge, Karyn Wiseman, Abdullah Antepli, Rabbi Ororose, Anthony Smith, Vince Anderson, Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, Paul Knitter, Richard Twiss, Michelle Shocked...

2. Let's Talk

It was in seminary when I first heard the expression "who is your conversation partner?" Professors asked this about which theologian provided the direction and foundation for a topic.  In "Theological Imagination and Construction" class, our professors encouraged us to find several theologians with whom we agreed and several with whom we disagreed.  This gave us something to work with or against, and these formed our "conversation partners."

At WGF, there were seven venues at which these speakers/musicians/artists presented.  Main Stage was for a very large audience (opening and closing ceremonies, major artists, big name speakers).  Storytelling, Talks and Coffee Barn were for medium sized audiences which allowed post-talk Q&A time, or a book reading with a bit of sharing from the audience and the speaker.  Geodesic Dome and Peace Garden small-ish and circle-shaped, allowing intimate and delicate matters to be shared (such as sexuality, or in another case how the festival was hush-harbor-like).  The Social Justice Gazebo was just big enough for a dozen or less.  

Over the four days, most speakers appeared at two venues, if not three or four.  At the Geodesic Dome, the speakers were asked to share a question for which they did not have the answer and invite conversation.  At the Coffee Barn, there were panels of folks sparring and debating a subject.  

As a result, I felt like I had "conversation partners" with these speakers and other festival attendees who, like me, engaged some aspect of their perspectives in their lives.  Even when I did not agree with a speaker, I learned how that speaker might resonate with others who participated.  I appreciated being able to go deeper on many topics and helped me understand the complexities and interwoven-ness of perspectives. 

3. Fresh

To me, the topics were fresh,  the encounters spontaneous, the conversations hopeful and the definitions helpful (emerging vs. emergent vs. hybreds...)    The schedule was as demanding as the justice topics were important (death penalty, AIDs, immigration, sexuality/spirituality, war, federal budget, mental health, ...).  

While standing in line at the lemonade stand, I met a man who simply introduced himself to me, "Jim," who asked me what Phyllis Tickle's presentation was like?  What did she say?  I recognized him, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, but it was just me and "Jim" in the lemonade line... both sweating away the afternoon and talking about the Great Emergence.  

I later found myself laughing as he presented and acted out a wonderful bible study that spoke to him and how "even the rocks will cry out" towards justice.  As I participated in that talk, I just had warm glow of watching a friend speak and let go of my "star struck" stance of who that famous guy is.  

= = = 
Between the bookshelf, the conversations and the freshness of the festival, the Holy Spirit sure showed up in many joy-full ways.  And so I close with Mary Oliver's famous poem, reminding me about harsh and exciting ways that the world unfolds before us.  Hope you can go to WGF in 2012~!

Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
© Mary Oliver.

How is your wild goose showing up in this moment, for you?

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